Have you ever heard of the Birthday Party Games? It’s sort of like the Hunger Games for Moms where Moms try to “one up” each other by throwing a bigger, better and typically more expensive birthday party than those who came before her! It’s sort of this sick trap that goes on between school aged children or toddlers running among a group of highly stylish Mamas! OK, I made that up but I know this sort of thing really does go on!
There is an art to throwing a killer birthday party but the art does NOT involve rolling out your checkbook and closing your eyes while writing check after check to make your little kiddos dreams come true! You can host a KILLER birthday party on next to nothing for all of your friends, family, school buddies and even those “Birthday Party Game Moms”!
Here are some of my favorite tricks and tips on HOW TO THROW A BIRTHDAY PARTY ON A BUDGET!
First things first, START EARLY
It’s all in the planning. You’ve got to start early (3-6 months) to ensure you have ample time to gather, create, craft, assign, adjust and EXECUTE! The earlier you begin the more time you have to make changes to your birthday party plan if needed, shop for supplies/birthday party related items on sale and manage your stress level. You won’t be pulling all nighters with bleeding fingers if you start early and work around your actual schedule by planning in your free time.
Next, TO THEME OR NOT TO THEME
Some of the cutest parties have a loose theme, or something that can be translated in some of the details but is not an all out Spiderman or Princess Party! On the other hand, some of your kiddos have a love affair with characters, movies or hobbies and theming their event is the only way to ensure smiles on the big day! Either way, we can do it on a budget! Use your favorite online resources to research and narrow down to a few options. Depending on how old your kids are, feel free to involve them in the decision! Look at photos together, DIY projects and crafts, and enlist their help in pulling off their celebratory shindig!
LAYOUT YOUR GUEST LIST & SET YOUR BUDGET
Here’s a professional secret- your budget really should depend on your guest list. One of the easy ways to get yourself into hot water is have a party for 50 people with 50 bucks! It isn’t going to happen and if it does, it won’t be much of a “party”! Be realistic with yourself and set your budget based on the number of guests you have, including children.
HOST YOUR EVENT OUTSIDE OF A MAJOR MEAL PERIOD
Perhaps one of the best tips! Don’t host an event over the lunch or dinner hours. Guests are hungry and are justified in assuming you will have lunch for them! I mean, you did invite them over for a party during the hours most would be enjoying a juicy burger! Host your event before or just after these periods. By doing that you can keep the event short and sweet but focused around snacks! Snacks are typically much easier to plan for and purchase for as well!
DON’T GET LOST IN THE DECORATIONS!
Decorations are important, really important (if you ask me) but nothing is really more important than the experience of your guests! Think about their experience from the moment they enter the party space to the moment they leave. Ask yourself, “Are my guests comfortable?”, “Will they be entertained?”, “Are they leaving with a warm and fuzzy feeling?”. Some of what makes the best parties are the small and personal touches that take just a moment of extra time to remind your guests (yes, even little ones) how much they mean to you and your family.
USE FRUGAL RESOURCES & OPTIONS
For example, everybody loves those $5 cupcake joints but you don’t NEED that for your killer party. You can spend a few extra minutes with the Baker at your local grocery store showing him or her a photo of those boutique cupcakes. Explain how you want the frosting to look and perhaps even bring in some cupcake toppers you found FREE on your favorite website, Pinterest! For about a 10th of the price, you can have boutique looking cupcakes for next to nothing!
FOCUS ON ONE AREA
Back to decorations! You can break the bank by trying to decorate your whole house or an entire party room. Pick one or two (max) areas that have the ability to be “high impact”. A space that’s super visible, houses a super important part of the party like the high chair for the guest of honor or the table area where the food is located. Dedicate the funds you have for decor to that space only and do it up! You can make a single focal point with just a small dent in the budget rather than spreading things around a large area and in turn, creating many almost invisible party decorations.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, DON’T STRESS!
We got here by vowing not to be a “Birthday Party Games Mom”, right? Don’t turn yourself into a crazy person because of said party. Stay cool and roll with the punches. I’ve been a part of more than 500 events in my career and I have yet to see one that goes perfectly to plan. As things change, make quick and meaningful decisions and keep one foot in front of the other. Enlist help of family and friends and know your limits. This all seems really serious but after months of planning and dedication you want everything to be perfect! It probably won’t be and sometimes little imperfections create perfect, unplanned moments.
All photography by Deborah Brandon of Deborah Brandon Photography